Sound in an amazing thing. It influences our emotions and thoughts in so many different ways – both negative and positive. For instance, for most of us, hearing music we like is calming and relaxing, but turn the volume of the same music up too loud – for example at a concert or when listening to earbuds on maximum volume – and the very same music becomes jarring and stress-inducing.
When it comes to music and other sounds, quality is a subjective phenomenon, one that is dependent on individual preferences; the quantity of it (as measured by volume, in decibels), however, is very much objective, and can be measured. Prolonged exposure to music in excess of certain decibel levels injures the hair cells of the inner ear leading to noise-induced hearing loss. As a result of being exposed to these loud sounds, an estimated 1 in 5 Americans have developed some degree of tinnitus (constantly hearing a buzzing or ringing sound in the ears). Its easy to understand how excessive volume can cause stress, but so too can really soft sounds. For example, the dripping of a faucet or ticking of a clock have been shown to cause stress, anxiety and insomnia.
But strangely enough, sound can also be used for beneficial purposes, and even to treat some of the effects of hearing loss. Like many people, you have probably experienced the calming effects of some sounds, such as surf on the ocean, the falling water, or the meditative sounds of chanting. Recordings of these calming sounds are now in use by psychologists to treat anxiety disorders.. They are starting to be used by audiologists to treat particular hearing problems, especially tinnitus. In hospitals and clinics, music therapy has been successfully used to speed recovery from surgical procedures, to help stroke victims during their rehab, and to impede the progression of Alzheimer’s dementia. Both at home and in offices, white noise generators have been used to overcome sleep disorders and to conceal the background sounds of noisy environments.
In the field of audiology, music therapy and sound therapy are exhibiting promising results as a tinnitus treatment option. While the music does not make the tinnitus go away, the specialist is able to work with the patient to psychologically mask the ringing or buzzing sounds. By using specialized tones or carefully selected music tracks, audiologists have been able to teach tinnitus patients to retrain their minds to choose the sounds they want to hear over the ringing sounds produced by the tinnitus. While the tinnitus ringing does not go away, the anxiety and stress that it otherwise causes are reduced. The patients learn to focus attention on appealing sounds in favor of undesirable ones.
So if you or a loved one has developed tinnitus, contact us and set up a consultation so that we can go over treatment options, which may include music therapy, with you.